Indigo Tiles, for the Educated Crowd

It should come as no surprise that the color blue might resonate strongly with Deborah Osburn’s customers when she recently unveiled her new, indigo-tinted tiles called Watermark.

That’s because in his dream interpretations, Carl Jung associated the color with thinking.

And Osburn, the owner of a San Francisco tile boutique she calls clé, had thought long and hard about the Italian bicottura (twice-glazing) process, before she decided on an intervention.

“I was thinking about how to do something different, so I took an unglazed piece of porcelain and stuck in cup of indigo stain,” she says. “And like a sponge, it drew up the stain, in any way it wanted.”

She allowed the tiles to sit in the dye for several days, absorbing different gradations. Each tile assumed its own personality in the process, depending on the molecular structure of its clay.

“Some will absorb a ton and some, none at all,” she says. “So tile-making becomes a really amazing process – it pays homage to the integrity of the tile itself.”

She skipped the bicoturra’ s second glaze, and stuck with what she’d found, eventually working with brush strokes, then light washes and heavier ones too.

“It’s like a Japanese artist – whatever you’re leaving on the canvas is very immediate, with a certain amount of craft,” she says. “There’s a delicate nature to it, but the result is a very hearty piece of tile.”

And it’s a hit – especially with the college-educated crowd.

“My first customer was a professor from Harvard who said ‘I want this tile,” she says. “When I asked why, she said: ‘I don’t know what I’ll do with it – I just long to have it.’”

Go figure.

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